Drusen (singular, “druse”) are tiny yellow or white accumulations of extracellular material that build up between Bruch’s membrane and the retinal pigment epithelium of the eye. The presence of a few small (“hard”) drusen is normal with advancing age, and most people over 40 have some hard drusen. However, the presence of larger and more numerous drusen in the macula is a common early sign of age-related macular degeneration.
Drusen associated with aging and macular degeneration are distinct from another clinical entity, optic disc drusen, which is present on the optic nerve head. Both age-related drusen and optic disc drusen can be observed by ophthalmoscopy. On CT scans of the orbits or head, calcification at the head of the optic nerve without change in size of globe strongly suggests drusen in a middle-age or elderly patient.
Whether drusen promote AMD or are symptomatic of an underlying process that causes both drusen and AMD is not known, but they are indicators of increased risk of the complications of AMD.
‘Hard drusen’ may coalesce into ‘soft drusen’ which is a manifestation of macular degeneration.
Schedule an appointment at your local Palm Beach Eye Center for an exam shall any of these systems occur with you.